On January 13, it was announced that the province acquired land worth $9.7 million for 16 provincial parks and two protected areas. Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, the largest park in south-eastern B.C. located north of Nelson and Cranbrook, has had 18 hectares added to it.
Robyn Duncan, executive director of Wildsight, explained that Purcell Wilderness Conservancy encompasses a huge area, and provides critical habitat for wildlife species such as grizzlies, wolverines and mountain goats, in addition to protecting a vast diversity of ecosystems.
The park contains high alpine mountain peaks all the way down to interior cedar hemlock forests, plus Kootenay Lake’s shores.
“It’s really a keystone of protection here in the Purcell Mountains and our region,” Duncan said. “So it’s a really important piece of the larger puzzle of that landscape that we need to protect for the wild.”
This particular parcel of land, located on the east lakeshore of Kootenay Lake, also provides a crucial travel corridor for wildlife and allows them to be able to connect from the mountain peaks down to the lakeshore.
“Previously at that point of the park a lot of the landscape is dominated by cliffy type areas, so wildlife weren’t able to connect directly down to the lakeshore,” Duncan said. “So this particular parcel, though small, is important in that it connects and allows that wildlife that travel corridor right from mountain peak down to lakeshore.”
The land, purchased for $640,800, had been identified as an area of strategic importance by B.C. Parks and was previously held privately by an individual.
“Birchdale is a small community that’s water access only, so you have to take a boat to get across the lake to access,” Duncan explained. “There’s a number of private properties there. I assume has a dwelling on it, but I don’t know the details of what’s on the land, but the process now is that Parks would engage in including that land into their larger management plan that oversees how they manage that larger protected area.”
Duncan explained that the Conservancy is part of the Central Purcell Region that has been identified, not only by Wildsight, but by scientists as an important area for species like grizzlies and wolverines, and so it’s been part of the organization’s priority to work towards further conservation in the area.
“We’re looking forward to future announcements like the coming Indigenous Protected and Conserved area that the Ktunaxa will be leading in Qat’muk in what was known previously as the Jumbo Valley, so that will be an important connection piece that adds as well to the protected areas in the central Purcell region. So Qat’muk is located directly adjacent to the Purcell Conservancy so it will augment and provide even more area for wildlife species.